I was born on the island of Dominica, West Indies and raised by my grandmother, Sylvia Albert, in the small village of Laplaine. I never allowed materialistic things to get in the way of who I was as a person, and never did I forget about my peoples’ struggles. To make a living everyday was a fight and they had to endure many struggles to survive on the land.
As a child growing up I experienced many hardships, but I do remember my village of Laplain. It was a beautiful place and with beautiful kind-hearted people. Early in the morning we would wake up to a huge mountain that you could see out the windows. Sometimes when it rained, you could see the river streams flowing down the mountains. We would hear birds singing and roosters crowing. There was always cool scents of a breeze carrying the natural smells of the fruits and flowers from the gardens. Even the roasted coffee would travel in the morning breeze.
My uncle Pepsi was a blind man and lived in a small shack behind Granny’s yard. Every morning when I got up I would take him a cup of coffee and sometimes even helped him walk to his friend’s house. We would then have to go fetch and fill the barrel of water several times before school, carrying it on our heads up and down the hill because we had no running water at the house, and in the pipes. My aunty would fix breakfast for me and make bread with a hot cup of tea. On my way to school every morning, we would walk down into the woods, passing in our neighbor’s backyard to shorten the way. Our school was miles from home.
When we arrived at school, the first thing the principal would have us do was stand in lines outside the class to say our daily prayer before we could start the day. At lunch time we had to walk home to eat and then we had to return back to school, on foot. Sometimes I would stay by my Grandma’s house, she was on my father’s side of the family; she lived much closer to the school. After school we had several responsibilities. We would have to go into the woods to chop wood for the fire to cook our daily meals.
Our house was not the normal house you see every day, but it was home for us. Our kitchen was a smallwooden shack with a galvanized rooftop. Outside the house was the bathroom and a shower. I can remember sometimes there was a small airplane passing over the island spraying the banana trees. I would climb up the kitchen roof to wave at the pilot as he flew over the house. I would often wave and he would wave back. I always thought of what life would be outside of my village from that point on.
At night my aunt would light candles and kerosene lamp ‘cause in those days most of the village had no electric. My aunt then would place clothes on the floor for me to sleep on because we didn’t have enough beds. I can remember we would walk many miles to go down by the river to wash clothes. I would be in the water playing with my friends and sometimes jumping from rocks to rocks to get on the other side of the river. We sometimes would make our fishing rods with bobbin and nylon to fish, meanwhile my aunt was scrubbing the clothes on the rocks with soap by the river. That’s the way we wash our clothes.
After we were finished, we would then walk back up to the village with the basket of clothes on our heads; sometimes our feet and necks would hurt because of the daily physical labor of life. If we would hear the sound of a vehicle coming up the hill, I would drop my basket and run up the trails to go see if I can flag down the driver to catch a ride back up to the village to help ease the load on my Aunty and I.
My granny encountered several physical challenges. She was partially blinded and had a bad foot. Because of these disabilities, granny relied on my aunt and I most of the times. My aunt and I would do most of the work around the house, like going back and forth from the shops to buy flour, sugar, and bread. I recall not having my mother nor my father on the island, so granny was left to raise me while my mother was working on preparing a better life to get me out of Dominica. All I can remember was my aunt persistently telling me that my mother is coming back to get me. What I didn’t understand at the time was my mother was oversees working on filing for my passport and Visa to come to America.
I can remember the first time I saw my mother: she was a beautiful dark- skinned women and she had this beautiful scent to her when she opened her suitcase. It was an American scent, like an oversees scent. I was very shy, yet excited when I saw her. But my mother couldn’t stay too long – she had to leave again, it saddened my heart to see her come and go so much. Finally, one day, I heard that she was coming back for me from Dominica for good this time. I was sad at this, but also excited. I was about to leave my close friends and all that I knew for the first time in my life.
When my mom came back for me, I remember we traveled to Barbados to work on getting my Visa. This was my first time outside of the island. She got me my green card then moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a short time. Then I remember moving back down to Dominica, and St. Thomas and finally settled on the island of St. Croix USVI with my mom, stepdad, and baby sister.
In St. Croix there was not much to do, and at first I did not like it because it was so much different from home. I remember feeding the cattle for my father. My mom and dad bought a small piece of land and built a house on top of the land. They didn’t have much, but they made the best of what they had and today my mom and dad are still living there with their own business.
While living in St. Croix, I was 16 years old at the time; I discovered a guitar setting in the corner on the side of the hallway at my home. The guitar was from the church my mom and dad attended. After school I would go to a soundproof room and learn chords from a friend. Sometimes at 3 in the morning I would be playing that guitar; it would keep my parents up at night, but they didn’t mind.
At the age of 16 I recorded my first cassette with some local producers, we called the cassette United We Stand. After school, I couldn’t wait to go to the recording studio, but it was very hard to pass that one by my mom cause both she and my father were very strict on me regarding leaving the house. At the age of 18, I graduated from high school. Right after I moved to the States.
I always had a passion for music, and that’s where my musical journey had truly begun.
What drives me is knowing where I came from, and never forgetting my roots, culture, and heritage. The struggle, and what my mother and my families had to go through to better my life. Not taking anything for granted, and wanting to help my family out and as many people around the world through the talent and gift God blessed me with.
The reason I wrote this passage is because people always ask me where I am from and how I came to be here in America so I wanted to write this to share with you. Below is video of Home so you can have a visual experience.
Thank you all for your love and support!!